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Dos and Don'ts when renting in Vancouver

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Renting in Vancouver might be very different from renting back home. As first-time renters, you may encounter strange requests from landlords or agents … we know. As renters in Vancouver, we have learned many lessons over time, and now we want to share these lessons with you!

We have compiled a list of dos and don’ts when renting your home in Vancouver. You may feel intimidated when looking at this list, but don’t worry; even if you have made mistakes or if you do fall for a trick by a landlord, it’s all part of the learning process. Forgive yourself and move on - there will be better memories to replace them with. So let’s look at the “To-Dos” first.

✅ Do...

Do in-person viewings

Never rent a place that you haven’t vetted yourself. If you can’t go, or if you still haven’t come to Vancouver yet, send a friend. No friend? Then stay in a temporary place through a trusted agency, such as Homestay and GEC. Most scams happen because students can’t vet the listing. Either the place doesn’t exist, or 5 people are living in a two-bedroom apartment. Jeez, that’s a mess! 😅

Do sign a contract

This is important! Well, they are all important 😄, but this one prevents you from potentially being homeless. For example, while searching for a home, you will come across basement suites which are renovated basements that homeowners rent out to pay their mortgage. Some owners don’t want to declare this as an income when they file their taxes, so they avoid contractual “proof” and ask you to pay in cash. The risk here is that the tenant law does not protect you. If you come home and find all your stuff on the sidewalk, there is nothing you can do about it. So, insist on signing a contract. You can use a template provided by the government.

Do look up the bedbug registry

This might sound strange to you, but bedbugs are real! They are nasty blood-sucking insects that, once they enter your home, will be very very hard to get rid of. And expensive! So check the history of bedbugs for that property. Sometimes putting the address and adding “bed bugs” on google can get you some answers. There are also websites out there that keep a registry of bed bug reporting.

Do check the public transportation

Sometimes when looking for a place to stay, you may find that your options are few, especially at a specific price range, so you rush when applying for an apartment/room within your range. If you find one that accepts your application, you may also rush to put in a deposit and sign that contract. The point here is that you also may forget to check the accessibility of the place by public transportation. So remember to check that quickly by going on maps and seeing the travel time between your school and the home by public transit before sending out your application.

Do check what neighbourhoods to avoid

We will keep this point short and sweet. There are neighbourhoods that you should avoid. It’s not because they are unsafe. It’s just that they come with some petty crimes and odours. We list and talk about these neighbourhoods in our article ‘Places to avoid: keeping it safe in Vancity.”

Do request 24 hours’ notice before the landlord visits

Although this should be mentioned in the renter agreement, sometimes you must pay extra attention to it, especially when renting a basement suite. Homeowners will use the excuse of you being a “student” and being in “their home” to do surprise checkups. But you are not a child and you are entitled to your privacy, so say no to nosey landlords and ask them to respect the 24-hour notice rule.

Do consider the utilities

Depending on what you are renting, some places will ask you to register for your own utility accounts. Such as Hydro (electricity), water, and internet. Some other places might have all utilities included in the rent or just a few. Ask beforehand so that you can arrange to set up any accounts you need before you move in. These accounts will ask for deposits that the company will pay back in a few months; therefore, budget for that too.


Don’t pay the first month’s rent before you receive the key

When securing a place, you are asked to pay the deposit and sign a contract. That is normal. What is not acceptable is that you pay the first month’s rent before you receive the key to the home. Some owners might still try to ask for the rent in advance, object and don’t be afraid of repercussions. If you accept, it will become the norm for others, and not everyone can afford to pay that much upfront.

Don’t give your SIN

Every agent or homeowner will have different application forms for renters to apply. A phenomenon that we came across multiple times is that they would ask for your social insurance number on the application. Don’t fill it! They have no right to ask for it. Some will ignore it and won’t comment on it, but some will have the audacity to pressure you and even threaten to reject your application. You are only expected to give your SIN to your employer, bank and accountant. We don’t want you to fall victim to identity theft.They can run a credit check without your SIN.

Don’t pay the last month’s rent in advance

Want to hear about another audacious act by landlords/agents? Well, you should listen to it anyway 😜 They will ask you to pay a deposit + the First month + the LAST MONTH's rent. Their excuse is that it's in case you leave without notice or if you can't pay your rent, they will have money to cover it. That is illegal. They can not ask you for that. Stand your ground and say, "NO., I know better than to do that."

Don’t pay more than half the rent as a deposit

In British Columbia, the deposit is a maximum of a half-month. Landlords can’t ask for more than half a month for a deposit, but of course, some will still try to ask for more. 😒

Don’t pay utilities deposit if the utilities are included

The same goes for utility deposits if the utilities are included in the rent. They will say something like if electricity comes back more than $60, they will charge you the extra amount. Or if you leave and your bill is too high, they will use the deposit to pay it. It’s nonsense, and you can dispute it.

Don’t pay an application fee

Since people rush to apply for home rentals, they end up applying to many places at once. It’s like when you swipe right on everyone on Tinder in hopes of a match. Landlords fear that most applicants are not serious renters or will have other options already, so they charge application fees to weed out the mass applicants. We understand why they do it, but you can still refuse if you don’t think it is okay.

This is our list. Please keep in mind that not all homeowners are like that. We don’t want to paint them with a suspicious brush, but we are here to help protect you, so we are somewhat biased toward you 😄. If you find the landlords’ requests reasonable, you can add them to your agreement, as long as you are okay with it.

Do you have more questions about the renting process in Vancouver? Do you have lessons of your own that you want to share with us? Send us an email, a message or better yet, join our free Slack community.

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